As vehicle systems advance, so do the maintenance methods. Recalibration of sensor systems is one of the trickiest elements of advanced vehicle technologies on trucks and equipment. This is why the tire alignment sector is pushing forward with new software and equipment to address the growing needs of advanced trucks.
Spoiler alert: Sensor systems need to be recalibrated after any maintenance operation on a vehicle, particularly when tires are removed to perform service. This is causing the increased sophistication of alignment equipment more so than many other tool types.
The major push for change in alignment technologies is caused by this issue of recalibration. Currently, there is no standardized process for recalibration and confirming a properly completed alignment. That means different processes and procedures for every vehicle manufacturer.
That inconsistency in processes means alignment equipment manufacturers, such as Hunter Engineering, have adapted their systems, software and subscription services to address the new technology landscape.
A two-pronged problem for fleets
The combination of inconsistent recalibration methods and new equipment means two things for fleets:
1) It can be difficult to have full confidence that an alignment and sensor recalibration is accurate and safe; and
2) You may need to buy new equipment, new software, or your system update subscriptions rates have gone up.
The first one is by far the most concerning from a safety standpoint. Some vehicle manufacturer recalibration and alignment protocols require a vehicle be driving an extended distance, pointed at a paper target placed at a fixed height. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think everyone has access to miles of a flat asphalt surface to drive on, that isn’t a public roadway, just to confirm a calibration. The risks to drivers and trucks are just too great to continue without some type of consistency in recalibration methods for sensor systems.
On the second point, when you add more technology to trucks, the cost of everything goes up: the truck, replacement parts, service and tools and equipment. In the early stages of all new technologies, costs are higher until it takes over the market. However, one solution to the increase in subscription prices and the numbers of subscriptions could be this simplification of recalibration methods.
The idea of simplifying recalibration protocols could provide the needed post-repair confirmation to ensure that alignments and other connected systems are road-ready while minimizing the equipment and costs fleets and service providers need to invest in to do the work.
It is the alignment equipment companies pushing for the solution. Fleets’ bottom lines aren’t the only things that suffer in such a chaotic environment. Alignment equipment manufacturers risk the quality of the solutions they offer when they have to keep up with so many truck types, supplier configurations and testing standards. So, on this one, fleets and equipment companies are together. Streamlining or standardizing the protocols for sensor recalibration across vehicle types would help everyone better manage advanced truck maintenance.
Sheila Andrews is the director of heavy-duty programs for the Auto Care Association.